I.S. (vanya796515) wrote in kunstgeschichte,

the Gardner paintings mystery

A couple of days ago we saw "Stolen" - a documentary on the infamous Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum robbery in Boston. It happened a while ago - back in 1990 I think, so some of you may have no idea what this affair was (and still is) all about. To put it in a nutshell - we are talking about a Vermeer and three Rembrandts, as well as some Degas and a Manet stolen and yet to be recovered. Vermeer's "Concert" is considered today's most valuable lost painting.

Although I visited Boston a number of times, I have never made it to the Gardner place (shame on you Ivan, shame on you, bad art history student Ivan, bad art history student). The building itself is quite remarkable - it is in fact a Venetian Renaissance palazzo turned inside out. While the exterior is rather austere, it is the atrium that is adorned with Venice-inspired gracious arches that bathe in generous natural light, emanating a truly unique American eclectic luxury and poise.

Exterior view:

Interior view:

Although the Gardner collection is worth a billion or two, the security back in 1990 was anything but adequate. The two night guards were overpowered by the villains and in about an hour or two the canvases were either cut out and rolled (a filthy vandalism) or taken down as is (relative humility on the robber's side). No one seen them since. The gravest loss to the art world is of course Vermeer's 'Concert', not only because it is a breathtaking masterpiece, but also because there are only about thirty-four known Vermeers out there today, hence loosing (just) one becomes a major blow to our collective cultural heritage. Loosing a Rembrandt's piece isn't a cause for festivities either, but in his case we possess roughly about 300 oils, which is quite a substantial number.

One of the stolen Rembrandts:

Christ and the Storm in the Sea of Galilee, 1633.

"Stolen" went as far as alleging a connection of the Gardner robbery to the IRA activities; I liked their concept of "art as a hostage". Although as far as I'm concerned, some of these canvases could very well adorn the walls of some new-Russian's palace in Moscow today. Anyway, although these jewels are gone, the Gardner Museum is still very worth a visit - it remains a world class collection of fine art, with Botticelli, Titian, Van Dyck and many other adorning its walls. Speaking of the museum walls - the empty frames now mark the spots where the stolen masterpieces once hung.

Tags: boston, isabella gardner museum, rembrandt, vermeer
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